http://www.politico.com/story/2016/10/donald-trump-town-hall-debate-prep-229267 This was not the debate tune-up that jittery Republicans were hoping for. Only days before Donald Trump must face Hillary Clinton in a town-hall style presidential debate, the GOP nominee added just such an event in New Hampshire. It was seemingly a concession to anxious allies and advisers hoping he might hone his skills in what can be a difficult format even for the most dexterous of politicians. Trump had other plans. “They were saying this is practice for Sunday,” he told the crowd in speech before the so-called town-hall. “This isn’t practice. This has nothing to do with Sunday.” He wasn’t wrong. The format was nothing like what Trump will face in St Louis, when half the questions will be posed by uncommitted voters, and the candidates will have two minutes to respond to each question as Martha Raddatz of ABC and Anderson Cooper of CNN serve as moderators. On Thursday night, Howie Carr, a conservative radio host and Trump booster, played the role of moderator, and the crowd was hand-picked by his campaign. The audience didn’t even ask Trump their questions. Carr did so on their behalf. Before the event, Carr had said Trump would take 20 questions. He stayed for about a dozen. And while Sunday’s debate will stretch for 90 minutes without a bathroom break, Trump bolted from his town hall in Sandown after barely more than one-third of that time. Trump’s campaign did place a two-minute countdown clock in front of their candidate on Thursday. He repeatedly blew past that time limit anyway. “I said forget debate prep. I mean, give me a break,” Trump said at one point. “Do you really think that Hillary Clinton is debate-prepping for three or four days. Hillary Clinton is resting, okay?” Yet even without the duress of an opponent, independent moderators and anything but softball questions from supporters, Trump struggled to drive any type of cohesive message, either about himself as a change agent or Clinton’s shortcomings. Instead, he whacked at CNN’s John King, CNBC’s John Harwood, polling analyst Nate Silver and Republican Sen. Mark Kirk. He digressed about how Hispanics in Nevada would rather be called Latinos. He kept complaining about his microphone at the last debate. “Doing well, doing well,” Carr said after a few questions, offering Trump encouragement. “I like this audience,” Trump said. “I like this audience.” New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who made the town-hall format central to his candidacy and has been coaching Trump ahead of Sunday’s debate, joined Trump on this trip to New Hampshire, presumably to provide pointers on his performance both before and after. The choreography of televised town halls can pose a particular challenge. How close you stand to your opponent, whether you make sure they are in your camera shot, how you interact with voters and even how comfortable you look on a stool can make the difference between winning and losing in the eyes of the electorate. Back in September, at the NBC military forum when Trump took questions from voters as Matt Lauer moderated, a woman was introduced as a veteran suffering from PTSD and who had lost two military friends to suicide. She said to Trump, “I wanted to know what your plan will be to stop 20 veterans a day from killing themselves.” “And actually it’s 22,” Trump corrected, as Rachel Fredericks grimaced and shook her head in disagreement. On Thursday, it wasn’t just the format but the questions themselves that Trump fielded that did little to offer him any substantive preparation for Sunday. The first question that Carr read was whether Trump had held back in the first debate (Trump said that he had. “I’d much rather have it be on policy,” he feigned). The last question was who Trump is rooting for in the baseball playoffs (“Boston,” Trump said in a local pander, as the Boston Red Sox were in the middle of Game 1 against the Cleveland Indians from critical Ohio). Trump’s performance in the first debate at Hofstra University earlier this month was widely panned, in particular his inability to stay focused for the full 90 minutes. Trump faded in the second half after he had proudly refused to practice in full mock debates ahead of that faceoff. He now appears headed into Sunday’s debate in St. Louis at Washington University without similar preparation for the town-hall format that could be even more grueling. On the trail, Trump has largely eschewed town halls in favor of large-scale rallies where he now almost exclusively relies upon a teleprompter. He has also, for the most part, avoided media interviews with all but the friendliest national reporters and the local press. When Trump has held anything resembling a town hall — as he did earlier this week in northern Virginia — the moderator has typically been a supporter, in that case social conservative leader Tony Perkins, and the crowd is filled with supporters. Trump entered that event in Herndon to a standing ovation. In early September, he’d done a previous event billed as a town hall, and took questions from one of his advisers, retired Gen. Michael Flynn, in Virginia. It was more of the same on Thursday night in Trump’s last true chance at a dry-run ahead of a debate to be watched by tens of millions of people. “This has nothing to do with Sunday,” Trump insisted of his New Hampshire stop. “It’s like they make you into a child.” And so, after a little more than a half-hour of easy banter and questions (“When you become president can you assure us you will clean house?”), Carr wrapped up by hailing Trump as “the next president.” Then, he wished Trump luck in the next debate.